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August 1, 2015 / 16 Av, 5775
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Daf Yomi

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Waiting For Kiddush
‘Mazal Bears No Influence…’
(Shabbos 156a)

The Gemara on our daf states that a person’s nature and destiny is influenced by the arrangement of the planets and stars on the day he was born. R. Chanina says, for example, that an individual born during the hour when Mars is “dominant” is destined to spill blood. R. Ashi explains, however, that this does not necessarily mean that he will be a murderer. If he wishes, he can channel his natural tendency for spilling blood for productive purposes and can choose a career as a surgeon, shochet, or mohel.

The Gemara cites a dispute as to whether or not the celestial bodies influence Jews, or only non-Jews. R. Chanina asserts “yesh mazal l’yisrael” – that even the Jewish people are under the influence of the mazalos (astrological signs) – whereas R. Yochanan maintains “ein mazal l’yisrael” – that the Jewish people are immune to the influence of mazalos.

The Power of Prayer

Rashi explains that according to all opinions mazalos influence the Jewish people as well. What R. Yochanan means by saying “ein mazal l’yisrael” is that Jews are capable of overcoming an inauspicious mazal through prayer and charity and other meritorious deeds.

Tosafos also say that according to all opinions mazalos can influence the fortunes of Jews. They cite Rava who says (Moed Kattan 28a) that one’s life span, children, and livelihood are not dependant on one’s merits but rather on one’s mazal. In an effort to reconcile Rava’s statement with R. Yochanan’s view of ein mazal l’yisrael, Tosafos explain that although one’s life span, children, and livelihood are influenced by mazal, one can overcome his mazal through a great merit.

Uniqueness of Av and Adar

R. Papa states in Meseches Taanis (29b) that since the month of Av does not have a favorable mazal, someone who is involved in litigation with a non-Jew should delay his court-case until after the month of Av. Conversely, it is advisable to schedule a court appearance during the month of Adar because of that month’s favorable mazal.

The Ritva elaborates that one should be mindful of the mazal of Adar and Av despite R. Yochanan’s view that ein mazal l’yisrael because these two months are unique exceptions to the rule.

The First Hour

The Magen Avraham (Orach Chayim 271:1) cites a kabbalistic source, Tikunei Shabbos, which states that the first hour of Shabbos is under the power of ma’adim – the red planet Mars – making it an inauspicious time to recite kiddush. Therefore, he advises reciting kiddush before nightfall when the mazal of tzedek (justice) is dominant. The Shulchan Aruch Harav (O.C. 271:3), also citing Tikunei Shabbos, clarifies that one can make kiddush before or after this first hour of Shabbos.

Shabbos: A Time to Enjoy

The Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 271:11) takes strong exception to this view and writes, “Heaven forbid to suggest that klal yisrael are under the influence of mazal, for R. Yochanan states ‘ein mazal l’yisrael.’ ” He goes on to say that the ancient nations, based on astrology, used to sit in darkness and cry on Shabbos because the mazal of that day was thought to be bad. To demonstrate to the Jewish people that they are not under the influence of any negative (or even positive) mazalos, Hashem commanded that we illuminate our homes and enjoy ourselves on the Shabbos day.

About the Author: RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.


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